Volunteer Vacation Day Two: Making Concrete Is Not Easy

What a difference a day makes! In our case we were all terribly sore, but chipper as ever. Okay, there is the one small exception of a few upset stomachs in the bunch. Still we were all very ready to continue building, but before I go further, yesterday I made an awful mistake of forgetting to tell how the homebuilding in Dushanbe works. In all regions Habitat for Humanity affiliates are located in the home building tends to be slightly different. This is due to a number of factors, but I’ll stay focused on Dushanbe. Tajikistan gained independence from the Soviet Republic in 1991, but soon afterwards saw a civil war which lasted until 1997. During that time home building basically came to a drastic halt, many unfinished homes remained, and the existing housing stock deteriorated from neglect. That being said two of the homes we would work on during our project time would not be from the ground up, rather homes that had either seen damage from fighting or shooting that broke out in the past or needed an extension for the growing number of family members.

Proceeding to day two, our amazing construction supervisor, Saiali and equally amazing volunteer, Christina (she’d previously done 5 GV builds) demonstrated how to mix the gravel in with the cement to make concrete for the frame. Christina mentally prepared us by letting us know it would not be easy. Seeing the difficulty in the task was no sweat. Our mixture required four buckets of gravel, approximately two or three buckets of cement and around two and a half buckets of water. First steps involved mixing the gravel with the cement real well and creating a volcanic like crater which the water would be poured into. Then you’d have to shovel the mixture upwards into the center of the crater until the hole was basically inexistent. Let’s call the process tedious.

Once our mixture was complete the next step was getting it from the ground and into the frame which involved another bucket line. Carrying dirt felt like feathers compared to lifting and carrying wet concrete in buckets. The work was not easy and if you were one in the group with tummy aches it wasn’t any easier. As we chugged through completing the length of the frame that had been set the Tajik workers continued to be impressed. I just hoped we’d continue to have enough strength throughout the rest of the build to be shining stars to the finish.